BY MOUSAB ALHAMADEE AND ROY GUTMAN at McClatchyDC.com
AKCAKALE, TURKEY — After receiving a crush of 13,000 Syrian refugees in less than a week, Turkey on Saturday closed a key border crossing to Syria and complained that a combined U.S.-Kurdish offensive against the Islamic State was driving Arabs and Turkmens out of Syria.
With Kurdish forces reported closing on Islamic State-controlled Tal Abyad, the Syrian town across from Akcakale, Turkey, the apparently successful offensive against the extremists has laid bare the clash of intereststhat has vexed the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State in Syria.
On Thursday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in one of first public appearances since his party lost its majority in parliamentary elections, accused “the West” of killing Arabs and Turkmens in Syria, and replacing them with Kurdish militia affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK by its initials in Kurdish.
“The West, which has shot Arabs and Turkmens, is unfortunately placing the PYD and PKK in lieu of them,” Erdogan said.
The PYD, or Democratic Union Party, is a Syrian Kurdish political party affiliated with the PKK, which has been declared a terrorist group by both Turkey and the United States. The PYD’s armed wing, the People’s Protection Unit, or YPG, is credited, along with an intensive U.S. bombing campaign, with holding off the Islamic State at Kobani after a four-month siege.
Arabs and Turkmen who’ve fled Syria use more caustic terms to condemn the Kurdish offensive, which also is backed by U.S. airstrikes. They charge that YPG militias have stolen their homes and livestock, burned their personal documents and claimed the land as theirs.
“They forced us from our village and said to us ‘this is Rojava’,” the term the YPG uses to describe a swath of territory it claims across